Articles of Interest, March 27th, 2008

Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence

We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies.* What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call “VC” or “communists”? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the North” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

  • What would they say today to Dr. King? Sounds eerily familiar to those who say the Rev. Wright was blaming America for 9/11. I guess Dr. King by the same standard was blaming America for Vietnam too? Hypocrites….
  • Please go to the link and read and listen to the speech in it’s entirety. Here’s an excerpt….

Weather Engineering in China

How the Chinese plan to modify the weather in Beijing during the Olympics, using supercomputers and artillery.

To prevent rain over the roofless 91,000-seat Olympic stadium that Beijing natives have nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, the city’s branch of the national Weather Modification Office–itself a department of the larger China Meteorological Administration–has prepared a three-stage program for the 2008 Olympics this August.

First, Beijing’s Weather Modification Office will track the region’s weather via satellites, planes, radar, and an IBM p575 supercomputer, purchased from Big Blue last year, that executes 9.8 trillion floating point operations per second. It models an area of 44,000 square kilometers (17,000 square miles) accurately enough to generate hourly forecasts for each kilometer.

Then, using their two aircraft and an array of twenty artillery and rocket-launch sites around Beijing, the city’s weather engineers will shoot and spray silver iodide and dry ice into incoming clouds that are still far enough away that their rain can be flushed out before they reach the stadium.

Gameworld: ‘Modder’ turns hobby into freelance career

“Our readers are always excited to see whatever his newest project is,” Frucci said. “He’s clearly head and shoulders above anybody else.”

Heckendorn keeps busy with a couple dozen projects each year, many updated on his Web site, http://www.benheck.com. Fees range from a few hundred dollars to convert a clunky old console into a handheld, to more than $4,000 to make a laptop computer out of an Xbox 360.

There are plenty of bizarre requests, too.

“Often someone will ask me to combine five different video game systems in one box, which is of course ridiculous. One guy wanted me to build an Xbox 360 controller attached to his rowing machine at home so he could row and play ‘Uno’ with his friends online. It sounded so weird I did it.”

Heckendorn’s growing reputation is inching him closer to his dream of working on major retail products.

A couple years ago a soldier injured in Iraq asked him to make a game controller that could be operated with one hand. Heckendorn did it and is now working with a peripheral maker to sell a packaged product.

globalsolar.jpg

Thinner, better, already sold out–the new new thing in solar?

Now Global Solar Energy is a major producer of thin-film photovoltaic Copper Indium Gallium DiSelenide (CIGS) solar cells, an alternative to the older solar panel technology. Among solar converter units CIGS has the lightest weight per kilowatt, says Global Solar’s CTO, Dr. Jeff Britt. I spoke with him recently, and he explained that Global’s just beginning to produce their thin film strings at a new, expanded plant in Tucson. And they’re already sold out for all they can produce this year. Most of the expected product for 2009 has been spoken for. Remind you of when the iPod launched?

Dr. Britt said the basic materials needed for their thin solar film is more expensive per pound than the material in traditional solar panels. Those traditilonal panels are 100-200 micrometers thick while Global produces more efficient conversion materials with 1-2 micrometers. That nmeans much less material is needed, less weight, and …get this: the ability to attach the thin film to metallic foil that is flexible. Dr. Britt said the key to expansion of use and application for their CIGS solar cells is: the coating. That’s right: the polymers that protect the CIGS from water and other potentially destructive elements. Global is right now working with polymer pros and building materials makers to creat solar roofing that lasts twenty years. We could never trap all the hot air, but imagine if we could at least put the U.S. Capital and White House to work producing electricity?

Turn Your Car Into A Traveling Wi-Fi Hotspot

Internet addicts rejoice. You can now surf to your heart’s content in your moving car, a veritable Wi-Fi hotspot, thanks to a partnership, announced Thursday between Novatel Wireless and AutoNet Mobile.The two companies said they will use nationwide CDMA EV-DO Rev. A wireless infrastructure to connect autos, moving or stationary, to the Internet. The technology could even allow people near cars outfitted with the technology to surf the Web.

“It’s a traveling Wi-Fi hotspot,” said a spokeswoman for the firms. AutoNet, which pioneered the technology with its TRU mobile IP platform, developed an in-vehicle module for the service that is priced at $595. The monthly charge for the service begins at $39.

Is Apple good or evil?

There has been a lot of talk lately about how is Apple becoming more like Microsoft and turning evil, but is it really the case? Personally I’ve known that Apple was evil since they tried to litigate me out of business and subpoena three years worth of my email, but I digress.

Recent examples of Apple’s evilness include pushing their Safari Web browser down the throat of iTunes users on Windows as a “software update” but other examples exist and bricking modified iPhones with a firmware update.

Leander Kahney points to several examples of Apple’s dark side in his cover story in this month’s Wired magazine, including: their walled-garden approach to software and hardware, secrecy, paranoia and managements sometimes poor treatment of employees.

On the other hand, lots of good can be found in Apple. Their technical support and build quality usually yields pretty high marks and their hardware continues to improve at an almost breakneck pace. Witness their successes with iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, etc.

Happily ever after for Comcast and BitTorrent?

Are Comcast and BitTorrent secretly an old married couple, prone to bickering over their peccadilloes and never quite comfortable together in public, but still joined tightly by an abiding sense of union and shared purpose?

So it would seem. The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reports a deal in the works between the cable provider and the file-sharing company that would have the pair collaborating on ways to make their technologies more compatible. Comcast, of course, has been on the hot seat in recent weeks over its practice of stymieing the peer-to-peer traffic of BitTorrent users.

Top executives at the two companies told the newspaper that Comcast will look for better ways to manage peak traffic on its network, slowing things down for those users who consume the most bandwidth, rather than by types of applications, such as BitTorrent. The new policy, which would also factor in additional data capacity, could take effect by the end of the year–if lab tests show it to be feasible.

The talks are also aimed at helping Comcast shore up video traffic on its network.

Analyst: Apple Has Ordered 10 Million 3G iPhones

Rumors and reports about a 3G version of the iPhone appear to be kicking into high gear the last week or so. On top of Kevin Rose’s prediction earlier this week that we’ll see 3G iPhones with video-calling capability, Gartner has weighed in and says Apple already has placed orders for 10 million 3G-enabled iPhones. Hoo-ahh!

Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner, says that reports coming from Asia indicate that the 3G iPhone is on its way to the market soon. Speaking to iPod Observer, he said that Apple followed up its initial iPhone order of 10 million (Apple’s original sales goal for 2008) with a second round. The second order also was for 10 million, and he believes that it is more likely that this order is for 3G iPhones than for the current 2G version.

Mr. Dulaney adds some other juicy tidbits to the pot. He suggests that Apple has sped up plans to introduce the 3G iPhone. This is due to its lack of becoming a major hit in the European market, where its EDGE data radio simply doesn’t compare with phones fitted with HSDPA radios. In fact, many European markets skipped EDGE technology altogether and went straight from the even-slower GPRS systems directly to HSDPA. This means the iPhone has to fall back on the pokey GPRS networks. Trust me when I say that using the iPhone via GPRS packet connections is absolutely miserable.

Weak Dollar Making US a Business Bargain

NEW YORK –

Thanks to the weakened dollar, the U.S. has leapfrogged France, Britain and other European countries as a cheaper place to do business.

A new study released Thursday by the auditing and consulting firm KPMG shows that the U.S. moved up on the list of most cost-efficient places around the world. Researchers compared 136 cities in 10 countries in North America, Europe and Asia, but did not include fast-growing China.

Mark MacDonald, the global director of KPMG Competitive Alternatives, said the survey authors found the U.S. to be more cost competitive than they’d ever seen because of the plunging dollar.

In 2006, the U.S. ranked seventh, and lagged behind several other G7 countries. This year, though, only Mexico and Canada were cheaper. The U.S. is now cheaper than Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and France.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks in the Great Hall of New York's Cooper Union, Thursday, March 27, 2008.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Obama offers plan for economic woes

NEW YORK – Democrat Barack Obama said Thursday tougher government regulations that reflect the realities of modern finance are needed to get a grip on the economy before it gets even worse.

“We do American business — and the American people — no favors when we turn a blind eye to excessive leverage and dangerous risks,” Obama said.

The presidential candidate spoke not far from Wall Street, hard hit by the mortgage meltdown and credit problems.

To fix the economy, Obama proposed relief for homeowners and an additional $30 billion stimulus package to address the nation’s economic woes.

“If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling,” he said.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the almost candidate, warmly introduced Obama but stopped short of an endorsement.

Bemoaning the nation’s economic woes, Obama dismissed Republican rival John McCain‘s approach as pure hands-off. On Tuesday, McCain derided government intervention to save and reward banks or small borrowers who behave irresponsibly though he offered few immediate alternatives for fixing the country’s growing housing crisis. Obama said McCain’s plan “amounts to little more than watching this crisis happen.”

Instead, Obama said, the next president should:

_Expand oversight to any institution that borrows from the government.

_Toughen capital requirements for complex financial instruments like mortgage securities.

_Streamline regulatory agencies to end overlap and competition among regulators.

While he laid out a half-dozen principles for closer scrutiny of the financial markets, he offered no specifics, such as which agencies should be reorganized or exactly how the government should go about peering over the shoulders of bank executives.

Bloomberg, Obama Meeting Fuels Endorsement Rumors

NEW YORK (CBS) ― Mayor Michael Bloomberg will stand side by side with Democratic presidential hopeful Sen Barack Obama for the second time in four months Thursday. Bloomberg will introduce the Illinois senator at a speech on the economy at Cooper Union College.

They have spent time with each other in the past, but Bloomberg’s latest appearance with Obama is fueling speculation about whether the mayor will officially endorse the presidential candidate.

The billionaire mayor had considered his own independent presidential campaign, but said last month that he had decided not to run. He said his focus would be on getting the candidates to embrace a bipartisan approach.

Lasting harm feared in Democrats’ battle

Some say GOP will get advantage in fall

Some Democratic Party leaders are growing more concerned that the protracted, caustic fight for the presidential nomination will cripple the eventual nominee, and there are new signs they have reason to worry.

More party leaders are saying that the increasingly personal crossfire between the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns serves only to write the script for Republican ads in the fall and to give John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, a head start in framing his candidacy.

While the Democrats have been arguing almost daily the past two weeks about each other’s electability and integrity, McCain has visited Iraq and other countries in the Middle East and Europe, received the blessing Tuesday of Nancy Reagan, and yesterday delivered a sweeping address on foreign policy.

“There’s nothing like a two-way Democrat suicide pact to make it easy for McCain to go off on a grand statesman tour,” Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist who once worked for McCain, said yesterday.

A Gallup poll released yesterday indicated that 28 percent of Democrats supporting Clinton said they would vote for McCain over Obama in November, while 19 percent of Obama’s backers said they would vote for McCain over Clinton.

Polls suggest that McCain is even or has a narrow lead over both Democrats, and CNN polls also indicate increasing unrest in the Democratic Party. The percentage of Clinton voters who say they would be upset if Obama received the nomination has jumped from 35 percent in January to 51 percent this month, while the percentage of Obama supporters who say they would be upset if Clinton got the nod has risen from 26 percent to 41 percent.

Ultimate Fights Expand to Include Kids

CARTHAGE, Mo. (AP) – Ultimate fighting was once the sole domain of burly men who beat each other bloody in anything-goes brawls on pay-per-view TV.

But the sport often derided as “human cockfighting” is branching out.

The bare-knuckle fights are now attracting competitors as young as 6 whose parents treat the sport as casually as wrestling, Little League or soccer.

The changes were evident on a recent evening in southwest Missouri, where a team of several young boys and one girl grappled on gym mats in a converted garage.

Two members of the group called the “Garage Boys Fight Crew” touched their thin martial-arts gloves in a flash of sportsmanship before beginning a relentless exchange of sucker punches, body blows and swift kicks.

No blood was shed. And both competitors wore protective gear. But the bout reflected the decidedly younger face of ultimate fighting. The trend alarms medical experts and sports officials who worry that young bodies can’t withstand the pounding.

Tommy Bloomer, father of two of the “Garage Boys,” doesn’t understand the fuss.

“We’re not training them for dog fighting,” said Bloomer, a 34-year- old construction contractor. “As a parent, I’d much rather have my kids here learning how to defend themselves and getting positive reinforcement than out on the streets.”

Tupac

The Times apologizes over article on rapper

A Los Angeles Times story about a brutal 1994 attack on rap superstar Tupac Shakur was partially based on documents that appear to have been fabricated, the reporter and editor responsible for the story said Wednesday.

Reporter Chuck Philips and his supervisor, Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, issued statements of apology Wednesday afternoon. The statements came after The Times took withering criticism for the Shakur article, which appeared on latimes.com last week and two days later in the paper’s Calendar section.

The criticism came first from The Smoking Gun website, which said the newspaper had been the victim of a hoax, and then from subjects of the story, who said they had been defamed.

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Clinton backers warn Pelosi on superdelegate rift

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of prominent Hillary Clinton donors sent a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday asking her to retract her comments on superdelegates and stay out of the Democratic fight over their role in the presidential race.

The 20 prominent Clinton supporters told Pelosi she should “clarify” recent statements to make it clear superdelegates — nearly 800 party insiders and elected officials who are free to back any candidate — could support the candidate they think would be the best nominee.

Pelosi has not publicly endorsed either Clinton or Barack Obama in their hotly contested White House battle, but she recently said superdelegates should support whoever emerges from the nomination contests with the most pledged delegates — which appears almost certain to be Obama.

Islamophobia: It Can’t Get Any Worse

By Ibrahim El-Houdaiby

Freelance Writer

Image

(Reuters Photo)

Is it a new wave of Islamophobia? This is the first question that popped up to my mind when I received the news of Hesham Islam’s resignation from the Pentagon a couple of weeks ago. Islam was pressured to resign after a quarrel he had with Maj. Stephen Coughlin, where Islam asked Coughlin to soften his views on Islamists.Islam is not an Islamist; he’s not even close to mainstream Islamists in terms of political views or ideological orientation. Yet, he had to face extreme pressure from the right wing because he disagreed with Coughlin’s argument that there are close connections between the religion of Islam and terrorism. But even President Bush’s public statements praise Islam as a religion of peace!

The new wave of Islamophobia is not limited to the Egyptian-born Pentagon advisor. Tariq Ramadan, prominent Swiss Islamic philosophy professor was denied access to the US. The UK government refused to give an entry visa to Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union for Muslim Scholars. It also refused to give an entry visa to Lawyer Montasser Al-Zayyat, lawyer of Al-Jama’a Al-Islameyya in Egypt, but not a member of the group himself.

Negative Signals

In fact, denying access to a prominent figure like Al-Qaradawi sends negative signals to the Muslim world and to Muslims in Europe alike.

Most of these figures have previously been to countries they have been denied access to. Ramadan has been to the US several times before and lectured in different nationwide universities, and both he and Al-Qaradawi were on the UK government list of moderate Muslim scholars. Al-Qaradawi was one of the first Muslim scholars to denounce terrorist attacks in US and UK. His book “Islam and Violence” is regarded as one of the best Islamist arguments against terrorism, and he is currently working on an extensive research on the concept of Jihad in Islam. He was not going to London to lecture or attend a conference; rather, he was going to carryout medical checkups, which apparently seemed dangerous for some government officials.

Turkey seeks a more modern Islam

By Fazile Zahir

“We are not here as Turkish Muslims to put ourselves in the service of Islam, but to put Islam in the service of life.”
Fethullah Gulen, Turkish Islamic scholar and writer

FETHIYE, Turkey – The level of surprise with which the world’s media greeted the news that Turkey’s highest religious authority, the Diyanet, has instructed a commission of scholars to re-evaluate the Hadith (oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of the Prophet Mohammad) with respect to modern society, seems all out of proportion to the actual exercise the Ankara school is conducting.

The Western media are of course keen to promote moderate versions of Islam, but the tradition of ijtihad (legal interpretation) is nothing new to Turkish religious thinkers. In 2006, the Diyanet had already started a process to filter the Hadith to delete misogynistic statements.

This new project is an even more ambitious attempt to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith and has taken the theologically radical step of ignoring later conservative texts in favor of earlier more liberal ones and by being prepared to evaluate the sayings of the Prophet within a historical framework.

Muslims in U.S. turn to home schooling

LODI, California: Like dozens of other Pakistani-American girls here, Hajra Bibi stopped attending the local public school when she reached puberty and began studying at home.

Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives and had also worried that other American children would mock both her Muslim religion and her traditional clothes.

“Some men don’t like it when you wear American clothes – they don’t think it is a good thing for girls,” said Bibi, 17, now studying at the 12th-grade level in this agricultural center some 70 miles, or about 110 kilometers, east of San Francisco. “You have to be respectable.”

Across the United States, Muslims who find that a public school education clashes with their religious or cultural traditions have turned to home schooling. That choice is intended partly as a way to build a solid Muslim identity away from the prejudices that their children, boys and girls alike, can face in schoolyards. But in some cases, as in Bibi’s, the intent is also to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life.

 Clinton and Obama are tied in the latest poll.

Poll: Clinton’s negatives reach new high

(CNN) – The increasingly charged Democratic race for the White House appears to be hurting Hillary Clinton significantly more than Barack Obama, a just-released poll suggests.

According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, the New York senator’s personal approval rating has dropped markedly, and those that hold a negative view of her have reached 48 percent — the highest in that poll since March 2001. Just 37 percent now have a positive view of Clinton — down from 45 percent two weeks ago.

The new poll comes at the end of one of the most hostile months in the Democratic presidential primary race, during which surrogates for both campaigns resigned after uttering controversial statements, and controversy swirled around Obama over past statements by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

But despite fears by some of Obama’s backers that the Wright controversy would take a toll on the Illinois senator and his presidential hopes, the new poll shows his approval rating has remained virtually unchanged at 49 percent. Only 32 percent of Americans give him a negative approval rating.

Meanwhile, in head-to-head matchups Clinton and Obama remain deadlocked for the nomination, each drawing 45 percent among Democratic voters. Both are also statistically tied with John McCain in matchups: Clinton is two points behind the Arizona senator while Obama is two points ahead — both within the poll’s margin of error of 4 percentage points.

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